The first Tsunami drill of 2022 arranged by the CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Public School System, Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, and Department of Public Safety yielded mixed results despite the advanced notice sent out to schools in preparation of such an important training.
According to HSEM spokesperson Claude Celis, overall the tsunami preparedness exercise drill conducted last Tuesday with eight different schools in the CNMI was a success, however, there is still room for improvements.
Celis explained that the drill started at 9am but a briefing by HSEM was done 30 minutes prior to the actual drill.
The ultimate goal was to get students and staff to evacuate school grounds and get to the safe zones within 15 minutes and account for each student at the safe zones.
“What we were trying to do is to have the students and all the staff and all the and all the school staff evacuate from the area within 15 minutes. Overall it was pretty successful,” he said.
Celis noted that it is extremely important, in a real-life situation, that students and staff evacuate the premises, and get students as far away from the shoreline as possible within 15 minutes.
“The reason why this training is important is because we want to be able to react accordingly. In a real life situation, we do not want students and staff within our schools to panic. We want everything to run as smoothly as possible in the event a tsunami does occur. Tsunamis are out of our control but if we can better prepare for it in the event one does happen, that would be best,” he said.
However, after the first drill, Celis said there are still a lot of things some schools need to work on to be truly prepared in the event a tsunami does occur in the CNMI.
“We made an announcement of this drill a week in advance and still, one of the schools took an hour to get to the safe zone and that’s not okay. And see this was an announcement. In a real life situation, that’s something we wouldn’t want to happen. In a real situation, we would want to have an evacuation run as safely and as quickly as possible. We want to get the kids at the very least 2 miles away from the shoreline in 15 minutes. One hour is just not acceptable,” he said.
When asked what improvements could be made, Celis said time, safety, and accountability.
The eight schools involved in this drill were Mount Carmel School, Oleai Elementary School, Oleai Head Start, Saipan Seventh-day Adventist School, Marianas High School, Susupe Early Head Start, Chalan Kanoa Head Start/Early Head Start, William S. Reyes Elementary School, Saipan Community School, Garapan Elementary School, Tanapag Middle School, and Tanapag Head Start/Early Head Start.